To the general public, Hedgehogs are often thought of as easy beginner pets. It’s common for people to expect to care for a Hedgehog the same way they care for a gerbil or hamster, only to find themselves completely overwhelmed when they finally bring a Hedgehog home. A common reason Hedgehogs are surrendered to the animal shelter where I volunteer is that they are just too much work. Their Hedgehog was not the easy pet they expected.
Hedgehogs are high-maintenance pets who require a specialized diet, a lot of time for exercise, and daily health checks. Hedgehogs also have destructive habits, such as chewing on wires, and you will need to take the time to fully Hedgehog-proof your home before leaving a Hedgehog unsupervised.
Whether a Hedgehog is high or low maintenance depends on the personality of your Hedgehog and the amount of experience you have with Hedgehog care.
Someone who has had Hedgehogs as pets for years will have a solid routine to make caring for their Hedgehogs easier. However, if you’re new to Hedgehog care, I can almost guarantee that a pet Hedgehog is more difficult to take care of than you expect.
Are Hedgehogs Low Maintenance Pets?
I consider Hedgehogs to be high-maintenance pets.
However, since high and low maintenance is subjective terms and have different meanings for different people, I find it most useful to compare the care of Hedgehogs to other common house pets. This will give you the best idea of what to expect when getting a pet Hedgehog.
On the most basic level, you can expect Hedgehog care to fall somewhere between a cat and a dog.
They do not need to be brought out for daily walks as dogs do, and they don’t require a lot of training to help them behave around people. Hedgehogs can be litter trained, but the process is a little more difficult than for cats, and Hedgehogs have to chew, making them more destructive around the home than cats.
Compared to other small animals, such as hamsters and gerbils, Hedgehogs are a lot of work.
Hedgehogs require more space in their enclosure, more time for exercise, more attention, and even a more specialized diet. Compared to these other small animals, Hedgehogs are very high maintenance.
However, if you are used to taking care of horses, I’m sure a Hedgehog will be a walk in the park.
Hedgehog Proofing Your Home
Hedgehogs have some instincts that can be pretty destructive toward your home.
They like to chew on anything and everything. As burrowers, Hedgehogs also instinct to dig into the flooring, making them prone to destroy carpets and scratch up wood flooring.
While some cats like to scratch up furniture with their claws, it’s usually a lot easier to prepare a home for a new cat than it is for a new Hedgehog.
To prevent Hedgehogs from being destructive around the home, you need to take the time to Hedgehog proof.
To do this, you’ll need to think of your Hedgehog like a little toddler and go through your home to make sure anything dangerous is out of your Hedgehog’s reach and cover up areas where your Hedgehog will potentially be destructive.
Special attention will need to be made to any exposed wires (Hedgehogs like to chew on these) and the corners of rooms.
Generally, once you have taken the time to Hedgehog-proof your home for your Hedgehog, the setup won’t need much maintenance on the day-to-day level.
However, Hedgehogs can be tricky and find ways to get into things you never thought they could reach, so there will always need to be some vigilance to make sure your Hedgehog can’t use their destructive habits in your home.
Cleaning Up After Hedgehogs
Although Hedgehogs might seem easy to take care of, they need regular maintenance. It is important to take care of the cage where you have housed your Hedgehog.
Hedgehogs pee and poop multiple times a day. Not cleaning their cage regularly can create a lot of mess. After some time, their cage will start to smell. This, in turn, can lead to health problems in the Hedgehog.
Hedgehogs can suffer from severe health problems such as respiratory issues, loss of fur, bumblefoot, and urinary tract infection if their cage is not clean at regular intervals.
The cage of a Hedgehog needs spot cleaning daily. We also need to deep clean their entire cage once in a month or so and change the bedding accordingly. If you have enough time and dedication, it might not be a tough task for you.
Litter Training Your Hedgehog
Litter training your Hedgehogs might sometimes prove to be a tiring process for you. However, you must keep in that that it is not an overnight process.
Litter training is a long process that you can surely achieve if you give adequate time and patience.
You can definitely litter train your Hedgehog. However, the process is not that easy. You will need a lot of time and patience to train your Hedgehog.
Hedgehogs are pretty smart and will learn to use a litter box over time.
It would be best to keep in mind that each Hedgehog has a different personality. Therefore, there is a possibility that your Hedgehog will take a little more time than others to get through training.
In most cases, with your hard work and persistence, you will be successful in training your Hedgehog to use a litter box.
The Hedgehog Diet
A Hedgehog’s digestion is very sensitive, so they need a specialized diet to keep their system in balance.
You cannot simply give your Hedgehog a bowl of dry food every day and expect them to be healthy long-term.
Instead, that is likely to lead to obesity, tooth problems, and serious digestive illnesses. Keeping your Hedgehog on a healthy diet may be the most high-maintenance part of having a pet Hedgehog.
It is essential to serve our Hedgehogs a well-balanced diet. They need to be fed a well-balanced diet of kibble, insects, worms, fruits, and vegetables.
Commercially made kibble: Kibble, especially the cat food, is filled with nutrients and is formulated to provide our Hedgehogs with all the essential nutrients they require to lead a healthy life. Therefore, it is important to ensure that they get their daily dose of nutrients before serving them any other food. 1-2 tablespoons of kibble a day is a must. This will help the owners ensure that their little ones are not missing out on any vital nutrients.
Insects/Worms: Insects and worms are a crucial part of a Hedgehog’s diet. You can give them one-two insect a day. However, not all insects are suitable to consume daily. Therefore, you must be extremely careful with what you feed your Hedgehog.
Occasional fruits and vegetables: Owners often feed their pets with fresh fruits and vegetables once in a while. However, not all fruits and vegetables are safe for Hedgehogs to consume. Therefore, you must research before introducing new food to your pet’s diet.
Water: We must serve your Hedgehog with fresh water every 24 hours. Water is essential for the survival of all living beings. You can serve them water in a bowl or a water bottle. I prefer to install both in my little one’s cage.
Exercise And Stimulation For Your Hedgehog
Although Hedgehogs make entertaining and loving pets, they need plenty of exercise and interaction. Lack of physical stimulation can lead to several health problems in them.
Hedgehogs even get sick due to a lack of physical and mental stimulation. For instance, a bored Hedgehog might damage his teeth by chewing on the bars of his cage.
Lack of exercise can make Hedgehogs obese in no time. Obesity, in turn, leads to several other health problems such as diarrhea and diabetes.
Also, if you do not socialize with your Hedgehog from the start, they will become destructive and aggressive with the passing days. Therefore, you must try to spend at least an hour each day with your Hedgehog. You need to select the favorable activities and understand what your Hedgehog likes and enjoys the most.
Besides interacting with them, provide them with plenty of toys in their cage. Hedgehog wheel and chew toys are a must for them. These toys enrich our Hedgehogs’ lives by keeping them engaged.
When Your Hedgehog Gets Sick
One of the most difficult parts of Hedgehog care is being able to detect when your pet is sick.
As prey animals, hedgehogs have the instinct to hide any symptoms of illness. In the wild, this would prevent them from being picked off by a predator, but as pets, this means it’s difficult to know that a Hedgehog is sick until they are very sick and in need of immediate care.
Subtle signs such as a change in energy levels and a change in the size of their poop can be symptoms of much larger illnesses.
Besides this, one of the significant problems that most Hedgehog parents go through in their initial days is finding an exotic vet in their areas.
Finding a vet for a Hedgehog can prove to be a difficult task for you. Unlike dogs or cats, Hedgehogs cannot be examined by a regular veterinarian.
Also, the exotic vet visits pinch the pocket a lot. So, make sure that you are ready for the same. The bill amount can range anywhere from 50$ to 500$ per visit, depending on your Hedgehog’s health problem.
Before getting yourself a Hedgehog, it is essential to find out everything about the exotic vet in your area. Keep note of the visiting hours and address of the vet’s clinic.
Not Ideal For Children (Need Adult Supervision)
Hedgehogs generally make good pets. They are certainly cute and cuddly, which attracts most of them. However, they are skittish.
They are not ideal for good for young children. A child below 10 years should not be allowed to handle a Hedgehog.
Also, Hedgehogs are quite delicate. If your child does not handle them properly, the Hedgehog might get hurt. They might even bite in retaliation. The habit of biting Hedgehogs can make them a challenging pet for kids.
On the other hand, Hedgehogs make an excellent pet for school-going children. If your child is ready for the commitment, then go for it.
Lifespan Of A Hedgehog
Many unfamiliar people with Hedgehog don’t realize how long a Hedgehog can live.
The expected lifespan of a pet Hedgehogs is somewhere between 4-5 years if kept with proper care and attention.
While this lifespan does not necessarily mean that the Hedgehog care is high maintenance, it’s something to consider when deciding on a pet Hedgehog. These pets are not a short-term commitment.
Many Hedgehogs will also require more specialized care as they age. The Elderly Hedgehogs often go blind or require daily arthritis medication.
Some Hedgehogs will even become paralyzed in their hind legs when they get old, making them more high maintenance than a younger Hedgehog.